5 tips to reduce resistance to learning


Some of us know people who love learning new things, often obsessed with getting started and mastering those subjects, which they will soon leave behind, focusing their attention on others that come onto their radar. “Shoshin” is the Buddhist word that represents an attitude of openness, enthusiasm and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level. “Beginners mind” is the best translation into English.

These people have several distinguishing factors, but above all they never get tired or show resistance to learning.

Most of us work differently. We prioritize mastering what we do to the point where it becomes “automatic”, storing that knowledge in another part of the brain which then allows us to carry out tasks or cognitive work easily and efficiently.

There are many examples of this in our daily lives. When we get home and can’t remember the route we took by car, when we ride a bike, when we follow a long-established morning or work routine.

This preference for automation makes it harder to say yes and welcome some of the new corporate demands: you need lifelong learning, you need a continuous growth mindset, don’t forget: shoshin? etc.

Rationally, we know that the current context requires us to be able to adapt, but change is tiring and takes a lot of energy, so naturally we don’t welcome being asked to learn to do things “differently”. And I bet almost all of us have experienced this… “A new piece of software?” “A new way of doing things?”, “A new boss?”, “Another training course!”… the list is long.

We also know that the “usual” way of doing things has led us to become specialists in some way. Change will lead to the loss of a sense of competence, which we don’t know if we’ll ever get back… and nobody likes to feel “incompetent”.

Understanding participants’ discomfort when they arrive at training sessions is important to bring them into the right mindset, but we can work better on the presentation and design of the learning so that we have less resistance.

We share 5 good practices that we recommend to reduce this resistance to learning something different in a professional context:

  • Ensure that teams know and understand the need for change. Their prior buy-in reduces resistance. Don’t let the context and framework of the change be generated in the minds of the participants
  • Get subject matter experts to co-design the experience. If participants know that the design has been contributed to by those who are “referents”, their willingness to participate increases significantly.
  • Test and improve the experience before and after the rollout. It is important to guarantee a feedback loop that allows learning to be improved before it is disseminated. No teacher prepares the “perfect lesson” on the first try and always teaches it the way it was.
  • Identify an already measured kpi that is impacted by learning. Finding a measure of the organization that can be influenced by training ensures participant accountability and lowers barriers to learning – we go one better on this indicator.
  • Bet on continuity and ritualization. Nobody changes their behavior after 2 hours of theoretical background, a group discussion and a roleplay. Even with very impactful experiences, the challenge of transferring them to everyday life is significant. You have to force yourself to practice, to remember, to become comfortable with the necessary transformation, until it becomes “automatic” again.

If evaluating the impact is usually the main challenge of the training aspect, let’s make sure that the development of the learning experience is optimized, so that participants are more willing and less resistant to learning.

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5 tips to reduce resistance to learning